Mindfulness is defined succinctly by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD as: Paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, non-judgmentally. And each of those qualifiers in his definition is as important and critical as the next. Often we struggle with our thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and bodies taking on much of the past or much of the future and we miss the present moment. Humans are programmed to plan, prepare, and predict our future in order to anticipate and meet our needs; similarly, we consider the past, either non-consciously or consciously, in order to avoid repeating ‘mistakes’ or in order to continue to ‘do things right’. While this may be adaptive and helpful, spending too much time in either of these temporal locations may feel defeating. Worry about the future is considered anxiolytic (anxiety producing) and worry about the past is considered depressogenic (increases symptoms of depression). Chronic worry – free floating anxiety or rumination may produce ill effects and habits. One of the first ways we begin to investigate what is happening for us is to become aware and mindfulness cultivates an acute awareness alongside every day interactions and tasks in a way that does not lead to increased worry or rumination.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (SP)
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is a therapy which connects traditional psychotherapy with body-oriented therapies to investigate the ways in which the non-verbal communication from our body about our environment informs and impacts our functioning. This therapy focuses on mind-body-spirit holism.
Cognition (thoughts and thinking styles), Affect (emotions/feelings), Behaviour (conscious and non-conscious), and Body (sensations and impulses) culminate and reciprocate as four core organizers of our every-day lived experience. Traumatic events, early maladaptive or suboptimal attachment to primary caregivers, and our life experiences may leave an impression with our bodies which inform the way we carry ourselves; the way we move into relationship with others’ the manner in which our nervous system informs of us of (real or perceived) threat, and our core-beliefs about ourselves, the world around us, and our place in it. Engaging the body and utilizing the body’s intelligence is critical in reshaping our behaviour, thoughts, and emotions.
SP Therapy is primarily a therapy for trauma, but a client does not have to have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to benefit from engaging the body and the body’s intelligence in treatment. From the get-go of life, the body organized our environment through environmental and sensory stimuli to create pre-verbal messages of safety, security, and approach or avoidance responding. We became better able to integrate these messages and regulate our responding within the context of good attachment and improved development of the brain. During moments when we are overwhelmed, our ability to integrate what is happening is diminished. SP therapy integrates the role of the body so that physiological, behavioural, and mental functioning improves and returns to adaptive states.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) / Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (M-CBT)
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a therapy which also investigates the interaction of thoughts, feelings, body states, and behaviours with a focus and emphasis on the role of thoughts and styles of thinking and behaviours of mood and functioning. CBT is a 'top-down' processing therapy which examines the impact of client thoughts and style of thinking on daily lived experience. CBT works to investigate and reframe thoughts and thinking styles and to create and meet small goals on which to build success. CBT therapy has been heavily researched and promoted through research as being an effective response to many mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.
Our manner of thinking and behaviour comes through operant conditioning, information and lessons derived through lived or modelled experience, and this information is often shaped by and/or shapes our style of perceiving, interpreting, and responding. At times, our thinking may become distorted, unbalanced, or rigid, and we need help to gain cognitive flexibility to be able to take another perspective or to consider the evidence of and potential outcomes to our thoughts and behaviours. Mindfulness-based CBT (M-CBT) is a common form of CBT and is described as a ‘third-wave CBT’ therapy; more and more, therapist are incorporating an awareness of the present moment and of the body into their focus.
The 'third wave' of cognitive behavioural therapies is characterized by focuses on metacognition, acceptance and commitment, dialectics, self-schema formation, mindful awareness, the therapeutic relationship and attunement, and the principals of operant conditioning and physiological responses to stress. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is also considered a third-wave therapy and differs from CBT in many ways but uses CBT’s top-down processing to integrate information revealed through bottom-up processing.
Eye-movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.
Eye-movement Desensitization and Reprocessing involves engaging the left and right hemispheres of the brain in such a way that traumatic experiences or 'channels' of traumatic responding may be 'cleared'. Client's may find that psychological pain which they have difficulty putting words to or fully understanding may surface, lose intensity, and change in meaning. EMDR therapy has been posited to be effective even when there is a language barrier.
EMDR Basic Training (2015)
Therapy and Theology do not have to be mutually exclusive areas of experiencing, investigating, or invigorating. If Faith is something that is important to you and makes up who you see yourself to be and is a lens through which you examine and interact with the world, then should it be excluded from your therapy session? If something is important to you, then it is important. If you would prefer to have your faith perspective brought into therapy, feel free to do so. We can look at what is meaningful to you, and at helpful or unhelpful messages or congruent or incongruent interaction between your values, beliefs, and behaviour. In therapy which is informed by a psychobiological perspective and often expresses analogies and explanations from an evolutionary perspective, although it seems counter-intuitive, faith is not necessarily contraindicated. Bring your heart and soul to session. I cannot and would not absolve or pastor, but we can work through therapeutic issues, including values, goals, forgiveness, and issues of faith, whatever your faith, from where are you are in your walk and what you bring to the table, so to speak.
For someone new to therapy, information regarding therapeutic approaches and presenting issues can feel overwhelming and daunting; questions are welcomed to help a client feel comfortable and informed.
An integrative approach means various pieces of these therapies may work to connect the dots or piece together a puzzle for clients who are struggling with
College of Alberta Psychologists (CAP)
Psychologists' Association of Alberta (PAA)
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute (SPI)
International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD)
Postpartum Support International (PSI)